US businesses tapped the brakes on hiring in July from June, a closely watched private survey showed Wednesday, though the latest figure was better than expected.
Payrolls company ADP said that private-sector employment rose by 163,000 in July, slowing from a downwardly revised June gain of 172,000.
The July jobs increase beat most predictions, as the average analyst estimate was that 125,000 jobs were added in the private sector last month.
Gains were seen across all sizes of businesses and in both the goods-producing and service-providing sectors in July, marking two-and-a-half years of job growth, ADP said.
The forecast-topping July number also beat the consensus forecast for the official July jobs numbers due Friday.
Economists predicted the Labor Department will report the United States added 105,000 jobs in the private sector in July, with 5,000 lost in the public sector, for a net jobs gain of 100,000.
The unemployment rate is expected to remain stuck at 8.2 percent.
But Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, said the ADP's July reading suggested the jobless rate may have declined.
The ADP estimate, if reinforced by a similar official jobs reading from the Labor Department on Friday, "will alleviate concerns that the economy has slipped into a downturn," Prakken said.
Most analysts say the private ADP's monthly payrolls number tends to be an unreliable indicator of the official jobs data.